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Opinion: As the Pandemic Exploded, a Researcher Saw the Danger. China’s Leaders Kept Silent.

The morning of Dec. 26, 2019, began as usual at Vision Medicals in Guangzhou in southern China. This commercial laboratory, a private start-up barely a year and a half old, was also known by its Chinese name, Weiyuan Gene Technology. It specialized in next-generation sequencing, called mNGS, and offered applications that can identify most infectious agents — viruses, bacteria and others — in a single test.

A researcher browsed through the latest test results, as she did every day, before turning to her other work. She was proud of the laboratory’s metagenomic sequencing capabilities. Only a month before, her company played a key role in quickly detecting a plague outbreak in Beijing.

The previous day, her laboratory had received a bronchoalveolar lavage fluid sample from Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and a major transportation hub, where a 65-year-old man was hospitalized with a pneumonia-like respiratory ailment.